The right car seat can mean the difference between life and death for your child if you’re in an accident. Still, many parents are not using car seats – even though it’s the law.
Using a car seat is not optional – it’s absolutely essential. Use these five tips to choose the right car seat for your child and vehicle.
1. Know Where and How to Install the Seat before You Shop
Before you even start looking online or shopping in a store, take the time to read through your vehicle’s user manual to find out where to install the seat and how to install it.
Car seats can be installed using either the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) or the regular seat belt. If you opt for the LATCH system, make sure that you know where they are located in your vehicle. Most newer cars have these systems, but they may not be located in the middle position, which is generally the safest area for children.
2. Choose the Right Type of Car Seat
Next, you’ll want to make sure that you choose the right type of car seat. There are three main types to choose from:
- Baby: These are rear-facing seats with a general weight limit of 22-35 pounds. These seats also have height limits, so be sure to check the box or product description to ensure the seat is suitable for your child.
- Convertible: These seats can be rear- or forward-facing, and are designed for babies and toddlers. Most models can hold children up to 40 pounds in the rear-facing position and up to 70 pounds in the forward-facing position.
- Booster seats: Booster seats are designed for children who are least four years old and/or weigh at least 40 pounds. These seats use the regular seat belt to attach.
3. Know How Much Room You Have
If you have multiple people riding in the backseat or more than one child in a car seat, you’ll want to measure the backseat area of your vehicle. Knowing the size of the area will help ensure that you choose the right sized seat.
You may need a seat that’s narrower if you have multiple car seats or people sitting in the back.
4. The Little Details Make a Big Difference
When choosing a car seat, it’s the little details that can make a big difference in the safety and ease of use of the seat.
Ideally, you’ll want a seat that has a two-piece retainer clip. A two-piece clip is a lot harder for children to unfasten. If you don’t choose a two-piece clip, your toddler may just unbuckle herself and climb right out of the seat.
Also, choose a seat with a harness that’s easily adjustable. The adjustments should be easy to access and use. A poor harness adjustment will make the seat less effective if you’re in an accident.